In an “editorial” designed to leverage the already-significant advertising dollars of its clients in the natural gas industry, the Ontario Clean Air Alliance contributed yet another blather-filled piece of sales literature in Monday’s Toronto Star.
Gas-fired generating plants in Ontario dumped more than 4.8 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas, into Ontario’s air in the period January to June 2012. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently said in a report that man-made CO2, like the stuff billowing out of Ontario gas plants, was responsible for a killer heat wave in Texas in 2011.
Cut to today, where my hometown, Ottawa Ontario, is suffering through the worst heat related drought in memory. I really don’t like reading about the gas lobby trying to sell more of their carbon-spewing product. Especially when there is a cheaper alternative that produces zero carbon.
The OCAA “editorial”—it’s actually an advertorial for which the gas lobby should have paid standard advertising rates, plus provincial and federal sales tax—follows OCAA’s standard propaganda line. Gas is expensive, so the public relations trick is to put on a straight face and say it isn’t.
Here’s a quote from another Star piece, one that is far more credible than the OCAA’s sales literature. It was written by John Spears just last week:
Gas-fired plants operate under contracts that pay their owners well above market rates, and in fact receive about one-third of payments funded by the global adjustment fee on consumer hydro bills.
The kicker is, those gas plants, which gobbled up nearly seven-twentieths of the GA, didn’t even produce three-twentieths of Ontario’s electricity from January to May of this year.
What produced the other 17-twentieths? Why, mostly nuclear plants, which dump zero grams of CO2 no matter how much electricity they produce.
Nuclear is by far our cleanest and cheapest option.
Steve: I have a question for you. How much radiation is released into the environment during the natural gas energy production cycle (mostly via radon, IIRC)? I know coal is a big emitter of natural radionuclides, and I was wondering if such also exists for fossil methane extraction (note: I prefer not to use the word “natural” gas whenever possible – it sounds so wholesome and green doesn’t it?).
As to how to stop the insanity… I can only think of one way: public education. It is mostly FEAR of anything radiation related that keeps nuclear “off the table” in the minds of the uninformed, IMHO. Big Oil can dump countless millions of dollars into PR. Educating the public doesn’t stand much of a chance against such a barrage of unremitting misinformation. But, try we must somehow…
Stephen, good question. The dangers of radon-222 are often pooh-poohed because of its short (3.8-day) half life. But because it is a gas at normal temperature and pressure, it has the capability of migrating very quickly through a pipe system. Its gaseous property makes it easy to ingest–all you have to do is breathe.
And because it emits alpha particles with an energy of 5.5 million electron volts (same as plutonium-238), it is a vigorous carcinogen. According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, Rn-222 is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., “associated with 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths each year.” — see http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/risk/radon.
Rn-222 has zero to do with the nuclear industry; it is part of the natural decay series of U-238. But it is being brought into every gas-connected home, courtesy of the product that lobbies like the OCAA are dedicated to selling. That is what they mean by “clean air.”
Charles Barton at Nuclear Green did a scathing piece on how anti-nukes and the New York Times look the other way on the radon issue, it’s worth reading.
Thankfully you (Steve and Stephen) are bringing sanity into the electric power generation discussion; Thank You.
We in the nuclear power electricity generation community can and should be proud of our contributions. We are improving quality of life around the world and we take full responsibility in mitigating any negative impacts of our technology (these negatives are far our weighed by the positives).
All forms of electricity generation have their place. The real challenge is to deploy them responsibly against real criteria in an environment of informed public opinion.
PS: For those interested in real time Ontario Electricity Generation/Use information, you can visit http://www.sygration.com/gendata/today.html
The importance and reliability of each generator and generation type can easily be assessed based on this site’s tabulated information.
Nuclear can help, sure, but over the span of 80 years, Which isn’t that long at all in the big picture, Nuclear will no longer exist. Uranium will run out and all we will have is the waste that must stay contaminated for 1000’s of years (according to USNRC). So Natural Gas shouldn’t pride itself as being so friendly and cheap, cause we know it is not. But Nuclear shouldn’t pride itself on the reliable sustainable energy of the future, cause unfortunately it cannot be. I know wind and solar are not the answers but we need something other than trying to burn up the last of these fuels as fast as possible.
Cliff, you make some very good points.
Regarding what is currently described as spent nuclear fuel from the current widely deployed reactors with once through cycles; we should regard it as a valuable resource to be re-burned in Fast Reactors that can extract most of its remaining 99%+ potential resulting in greatly reduced waste volumes and huge amounts of electricity. Several Fast Reactor designs have been extensively tested and further development for commercial application is underway (albeit in other countries).
That 80 year estimate of uranium reserves is old data using the current price of uranium. Double the price of uranium, and suddenly there is a lot more supply. Double the price of uranium, and there is only a small increase in the cost of generating electricity — for nuclear, fuel costs are very low.
Things get even better. Our present reactors at best use maybe 1% to 2% of the energy in the uranium we mine. Breeder reactors already exist that can use the other 98% to 99% of the energy. That nuclear “waste” becomes fuel. The real “waste” (fission products) decays down to the radioactivity of uranium ore in a few hundred years. With advanced reactors that use 100% of the energy in uranium, things like sea water become economical as a source of uranium. This source is continually replenished by the natural erosion of rock. Now toss in thorium, another potential nuclear fuel. It is twice as common as uranium.
We have a surplus of nuclear fuel. We also have a surplus of nuclear phobia. If we can run out of phobia, we will never run out of nuclear fuel.
We WILL run out of nuclear fuel a few million years AFTER the sun swallows the earth as it evolves into a red giant.